BRADENTON — School may be out at Bradenton Preparatory Academy, but more than three dozen teachers there are still waiting for paychecks.
About a half dozen teachers recently filed letters of demand to school administrators for months of unpaid work at the for-profit private school. The letters, which add to a slew of other recent financial blows to Bradenton Prep, were addressed to school leaders including foreign investor Hendrik Lamprecht, chief executive officer of the school’s owner, The Children’s Place.
In their letters, teachers asked for their back pay by June 11. But as of Monday the money hadn’t been received, said Cheryl Gaynor, who teaches math at the school and is now claiming unemployment.
“Nothing,” said Gaynor, who says she is owed about $22,000. “It’s like we did volunteer service for the last four months of school.”
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The veteran teacher of 37 years and other teachers said they stuck around until the end of the school year on behalf of the students.
In addition, the demand letter she wrote states school administrators repeatedly told about 40 teachers they would be paid soon, but it never happened. “A few of them received a paycheck, but it either bounced or had a stop payment put on it,” said Gaynor, 57. “Now we’re being told we’ll be paid by June 30.”
If they are not paid, she said, about a dozen teachers plan to sue the school’s owner.
Mary Conway, a resource director at the school also owed back pay, said that when she applied for unemployment, the Department of Labor told her the school claimed she quit.
“I told them it wasn’t true, and they said they would investigate it,” Conway said.
“They decided to give it to me because of inappropriate behavior by the employer. What makes me so sad is many of the employees have children and are unable to make rent and pay water, electric, or phone bills, and it’s just horrible.”
School attorney Ed Vogler could not be reached for comment Monday despite repeated attempts.
But he has said the school and Lamprecht have been working to resolve the financial problems, which include foreclosure.
In late April, a Manatee County Circuit Court judge issued a judgment against the school and ordered a July 2 auction of its campus at 7900 40th Ave. W.
Another lender, Freedom Holdings Manatee LLC, is seeking a $1.6 million foreclosure judgment against the school. A June 29 hearing on the request is set, court records show.
Regardless, teachers who haven’t been paid say they’ll fight for what they say they are owed.
“I really, really need the money so if there is any chance I could get some, it would be worth taking it to court,” said former art teacher Holly Thompson, who quit Jan. 26 after not being paid for about three months.
The school owes her nearly $7,000 in back pay and another $1,000 for medical bills because school officials also deducted premiums from the checks for health insurance coverage they no longer have, she said.
It’s a similar story for the school’s new art teacher, Elizabeth Davies, who said she hasn’t had a paycheck since Feb. 15.
Davies, who also filed a demand letter, said the school owes her about $21,000.
“But it’s more than that because we found out our health insurance lapsed,” said Davies, who is a single parent.
“I’ve never been on unemployment, but I am now,” Davies said. “I never thought I’d be in this situation. It’s been so stressful. Promises that were never delivered on.”
Natalie Neysa Alund, reporter, can be reached at (941) 745-7095.